Our very own James Richardson was rummaging through his drawers recently and something pleasant popped up – that’s right, a bunch of tapes from the 1990s, which contained not only some vintage adverts but a slew of full editions of Gazzetta Football Italia, the show that made many of us fall in love with football.
Modern technology being what it is, with the right combination of cables and patience James was able to put them back into the world for us all to see, and a selection of them are on his YouTube channel, JimboVision. Here are a few of the episodes James uncovered, and if you’re very good a few more might be coming later too…
Inter cling on, Gazza’s mask & Sven: May 22, 1993
Towards the end of Gazzetta’s first season, Jimbo displayed his absolutely impeccable newspaper holding technique to tell us about the extraordinary goings on at Fiorentina, where Brian Laudrup and the ever-shy and retiring Stefan Effenberg had attracted the ire of La Viola’s fans to such an extent that both had to be sequestered in a hotel away from their homes. The beef was relatively simple: Fiorentina were rubbish, and were on the brink of relegation to Serie B, despite the presence of those two creative dons and a young Gabriel Batistuta up top.
Speaking of beef, there was some consternation in Rome as Paul Gascoigne’s face mask – deemed necessary after he broke his cheekbone while playing for England – was stolen from the club’s training ground. Quite who would want to nick such a thing is unclear: seemingly it was robbed simply for the love of Gazza.
Elsewhere there’s an extremely tasty Juventus away kit, Milan tune up for the Champions League final against Marseille and Jimbo visits the scenic terrace of one Sven Goran Eriksson, then Sampdoria manager, who discusses the imminent departure of Des Walker after just one season in Italy, and the subsequent arrival of David Platt from Juventus. Our man also does his best to get a word with the notoriously reticent Walker, but just as he did to many journalists over the years, Des ignored the overtures of the man with the microphone and sped off down the dusty track, eventually all the way to Sheffield Wednesday.
Signori, Milan win the title and then try to poach Giggs – June 5, 1993
A 13th Serie A title is sealed by Milan, who played out a mutually beneficial 1-1 draw with Brescia, which included a genuine belter from Demetrio Albertini, while Inter – and stop us if you’ve heard this one before – bottle it against Parma, with a defence “as soft as melted butter”, and a forward line about as sharp. Milan thus took an unassailable five-point lead over their stadium-mates, but attracted the ire of Fiorentina, who were one of the teams scrapping with Brescia to avoid relegation and were thoroughly unimpressed by the goal that Milan allowed their rivals to score. “I would never have expected something of the kind from a club as prestigious as Milan,” complained forward and future Derby County hero Francesco Baiano.
Not all was rosy with Milan though, as their trio of brilliant Dutch players was about to be broken up, with Ruud Gullit heading to Sampdoria, Frank Rijkaard off back home to Ajax and Marco van Basten announcing that his ankle couldn’t take the strain anymore and he would require a third operation of the season. They didn’t know it at the time, but the Champions League final defeat to Marseille a few days before they clinched this title would turn out to be Van Basten’s last for the club, and indeed last game of competitive professional football ever, as he missed the entirety of the next two seasons before finally giving in to the inevitable in 1995.
Also in this edition of Gazzetta, James quite literally sits down with the 92/93 capocannoniere Beppe Signori, making themselves comfortable in the rather dusty looking goalmouth at Lazio’s training ground for a chat about scoring goals, his “short and stout” girlfriend, Super Nintendo and the car crash that nearly killed him. Alas, our man didn’t ask him about that absolutely outrageous shirt.
Alexei Lalas, fired by TV and Dennis Bergkamp – October 22, 1994
Skip forward a couple of years and just a few months after bringing both the UEFA Cup and the Champions League back to the north of Italy, Milan and Inter found themselves in some strife, having started the season calamitously. James travelled to Milan to get to the bottom of what had gone quite so awry, getting opinions from Giuseppe Bergomi and his ferocious monobrow, Gianluca Pagliuca about the different pressures of playing for Inter and Sampdoria, while he also tried to investigate why it had all gone south for Dennis Bergkamp. Jimbo collared a reluctant looking Dutchman outside a green fence, which swings ominously open halfway through the interview, in which Bergkamp rather unconvincingly declares that he was having a smashing time at Inter and things would come right. They did not, and he was shipped off to Arsenal at the end of that season, where things went rather better for him.
There’s also a delightful chat on some rocks with David Platt, discussing his time at Sampdoria and his hopes to stay there beyond the end of that season, when his contract expired. There had been some interest from England, Platty informed us, but if it was his choice then Genoa was the place he wanted to stay. Reader, he did not stay, returning to England where he signed for Arsenal for a then-whopping £4.75million.
George Weah’s comedy timing, Trap and Take That and February 17, 1996
An episode that starts off with a surprisingly good skit with a rather gloomy-looking George Weah, in which he is expertly cajoled into a gag about Gary Bloom, James gets topical by linking the recent break-up of Take That with Giovanni Trapattoni’s departure from lowly Cagliari, with the now familiar name of Massimo Cellino thrown in there.
The highlight of the highlights was a convincing win for Inter, with Paul Ince putting in a barnstorming performance in a game which also featured Benito Carbone, who would be off to Sheffield Wednesday later that year. Elsewhere fans of Cremonese goalkeeper Luigi Turci look away now, because that’s him Taibi-ing a Luigi Di Biagio shot through his own legs against Roma, while Diego Fuser scored an absolute dinger for Lazio against Udinese.
And then back to Gorgeous George, the Ballon d’Or holder and man at the peak of his powers as he drove Milan towards the Serie A title, also basking in the glow of having recently met Nelson Mandela. It is also worth watching the highlights of Weah’s play back then, just to remind you of what an absolutely sensational performer he was. That goal against Lazio, for example, careening through two players before beating the keeper to the ball and stabbing it home. Woof.
…And the theme tune…
If you’ve always thought that the theme tune for Gazzetta was some bespoke piece of early 90s house, think again. It was in fact this funky number by niche outfit Definitive Two – ‘I’m Stronger Now’. It didn’t trouble the charts in any significant way – ‘Would I Lie To You’ by Charles and Eddie appears to have been No.1 on its week of release – but it did lodge itself in the national consciousness…or at least the national consciousness of those of us who spent every Sunday in front of Channel Four while the chicken cooked.
For more slices of Italian football nostalgia, we can heartily recommend Golazzo, which you can subscribe to here. Or indeed you can get a twice-weekly dose of James Richardson on the Totally Football Show – subscribe here.